How to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children
If you’ve read the blog post Food Labelling Explained you’ll have some idea of how easy it is to be given misleading messages about food. Here we’ll look at how you, as a parent, can give your children information about food that is both true and effective at encouraging healthy eating.
Some years ago research found that repeatedly presenting children with healthy foods that they didn’t immediately like would lead to them eventually eating the food.
A more recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour found that communicating the benefits of healthy eating to children in a way that they can relate to may be even more effective at getting children to make healthy food choices.
The children in the study were 3-5 years old and the study took place over 6 weeks. Before beginning the study the children were asked to rank how much they liked various foods from different food groups including green peppers, tomatoes, quinoa and lentils.
The children were given the 2 foods they ranked lowest at least twice a week and were told age-appropriate facts about the benefits of one of the foods. The other food was given to them to taste but with no information.
The researchers measured how much the children ate before the study, at the end of the study and one month later. A month after the study the children ate twice as much of the food they had been told the benefits of as the food they had been told nothing about.
For example, saying things like “eat your lentils if you want to grow bigger and run faster” were more effective at getting children to eat healthy foods than presenting the food repeatedly without saying anything about it.
Parents often know what their children should be eating but do not know how to encourage them to eat it. This study shows that children respond to simple healthy eating education (1).
See also the blog post on Fasting and Future Generations for information on how much you eat could affect your offspring.
1. Lanigan J et al. Child-Centered Nutrition Phrases Plus Repeated Exposure Increase Preschoolers’ Consumption of Healthful Foods, but Not Liking or Willingness to Try. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2019